Thunder balance too much for Nets

 

By Michael Kinney

OKLAHOMA CITY – Lately it seems every time Russell Westbrook takes the court he is breaking some type of record or doing something that’s never been seen before. But when hos name is mentioned with the immortals of the game is when the Oklahoma City guard knows he has really accomplished something.

Westbrook collected his fourth triple-double of the season to lead Oklahoma City to a 124-105 victory over Nets at Chesapeake Energy Arena Friday. He posted 30 points, 11 rebounds and 13 assists to reach 41 career triple-doubles. He also became the second player in NBA history to record 13,000 points, 3,400 rebounds and 4,500 assists in his first 600 career NBA games. Oscar Robertson was first.

“He’s unique. Really unique,” Nets coach Kenny Atkinson said of Westbrook. “Everything he brings to the table is competitiveness. How fast he is, how strong he is. Very impressive player.

Six players scored in doubled figures for Oklahoma City. Victor Oladipo added 26 points and six assists. Center Steven Adams collected 15 points and six boards.

“I was just playing the game, man,” said Oladipo, who shot 11 of 17 from the field. “Taking it one game at a time, one possession at a time.”

Brooke Lopez paced the Nets with 22 points on 8 of 16 shooting. Guard Bojan Bogdanovic scored 13 points while Anthony Bennett tallied 12 points as well.

With 5:15 left in the fourth quarter, Bennett cut the Thunder (8-5) lead down to nine. But just as quickly Oladipo strolled to the other end of the court and nailed a 3-pointer to push the advantage up to 12.

After Oklahoma City’s Andre Roberson missed a pair of free throws, a scuffle led to Adams being fouled. He made both of his foul attempts and the Thunder led 112-98.

The Nets came up empty on their offensive possession and Oladipo came back and drilled another 3-pointer that sent the fans to exits.

The Thunder dominated on the boards 46-30.

“That’s an issue,” Atkinson said. “Physically they are a tough team. That’s what they do. They are a physcall, team, big team. Definitely an area of improvement for us.”

Brooklyn didn’t hide its intentions when the game started. They were going to force long-range 3-pointers down Oklahoma City’s throat any time they had a chance. Whether they came from set plays, transition or off loose balls, the Nets (4-8) were hoisting them up with no conscience.

Lopez was the leading culprit. The 7-footer drained four of the teams eight 3-pointers in the first quarter as the Nets built a 40-34 advantage.

The Nets’ willingness to fire the three-ball sucked the Thunder into the same tactic. However, Oklahoma wasn’t as proficient in the first half, making only 3 of 14.

It wasn’t until Oklahoma City stopped settling for long jumpers and began to drive into the paint that they found consistent success. Forward Joffrey Lauvergne was the biggest benefactor. When defenders left him to converge on Westbrook, it left him open for dunks or 3-pointers.

“I don’t know how I did it,” said Lauvergne, who scored 13 points. “I just try every time I step on the court to play hard and to play good and to help the team win some games. This is what I’m going to do every time I step on the court. So sometimes it’s going to be great… I’m going to fight every time.”

After trailing by 9, the Thunder went on an 18-6 run to close out the half and take a 64-61 lead into halftime.

The run continued into the second half. As Brooklyn’s long-distance shots stopped falling, Oklahoma City was able to take advantage by getting out on fast-break opportunities.

Without the threat of the 3-pointer, the Nets offense stalled. They had no low-post threat and no point guard who could set up his teammates. They scored a total of 42 points in the second and third quarters combined.

“They got a lot of good looks in transition and created second chance opportunities,” Lopez said. “I thought we were up to the challenge for a little bit, but it got away from us and we weren’t able to get back into it.”

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